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Are the Widespread Clusters of Stone Artefacts on Dune Surfaces in Southeastern Arid Australia Really Late Holocene in Age?

Amy Way
Australian Museum and the University of Sydney

Co-Author/s
Philip Hughes, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University
Marjorie Sullivan, Department of Archaeology, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, The University of Sydney

Vast numbers of clusters of stone artefacts (commonly called artefact scatters) occur on dune surfaces throughout southeastern arid Australia, virtually all of them undated. They were interpreted by researchers in the 1980s and 1990s as being mainly of late Holocene age on the basis of their surface or near surface location and their composition, which include backed artefacts, tulas and unifacial points. In this paper we analyse dated archaeological sites in the Roxby dunefield to test the reliability of this interpretation. Our analyses indicate that we can be confident that most of the artefacts in the many thousands of other recorded but undated sites in this dunefield are of late Holocene age. On the balance of probabilities earlier researchers working throughout the southeast arid zone were correct to conclude that the sites were essentially late Holocene in age.

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